Illicit tobacco tops Trading Standards cases in UK

The latest annual report on intellectual property crimes investigated by UK Trading Standards has revealed that illicit cigarettes and tobacco were the most investigated product category in 2022-2023.

80 per cent of authorities who responded to the survey identified tobacco as the most investigated illicit product, followed by clothing at 65 per cent, electronic vaping devices at just over 40 per cent – a four-fold increase in the last five years – and footwear and electrical goods both at roughly 30 per cent. At the same time, investigations into cosmetics and makeup have decreased significantly since 2018.

Over 80 per cent of authorities identified retail outlets as the most important locations for investigations into IP crime, currently at an all-time high, with a decline in the importance of social media and websites.

For the first time, the report has included identity theft in recognition of the close links between this and other forms of IP crime, which are often carried out by organised criminal networks.

"At the same time as IP criminals exploit developments in online technology through identity fraud and online fakery, traditional networks – through shops and markets, selling commonplace counterfeit items like cigarettes, clothing and jewellery – remain significant threats to honest traders and consumers," it says.

"The war against IP crime has become a complex operation, combining insights into transformative online technology and age-old investigative techniques acquired through experience on the streets."

Among the cases highlighted in the report is a recent clampdown on retail outlets peddling counterfeits in Manchester's notorious Cheetham Hill area, and a test case in Dorset which focused on illegal vinyl music discs that brought a million-pound fraudster to justice.

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